RELEASE: Members of Congress & American Airlines Reaffirm Commitment To Protecting Regional Flights At DCA As Efforts To Modernize Outdated Perimeter Rule Gain Increased Bipartisan Support

“American’s statement today that it has no plans to cut regional service leaves United Airlines standing alone in threatening flight cuts.”

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Washington, D.C. – As bipartisan support continues to grow in Congress for modernizing the outdated federal perimeter that restricts air travel at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), The Capital Access Alliance (CAA) today pointed to a new public commitment by American Airlines that it has “no plans to cut regional flights” at DCA, which further undercuts a false claim being advanced by United Airlines’ coalition. 

(Update: After publication of the original Washington Examiner story, and this subsequent CAA press release, it appears American Airlines contacted the Examiner and had the statement above removed from the article. This raises the question, will American commit to not cutting regional flights or are they threatening to cut regional flights if lawmakers vote to give air travelers more choices? Stay tuned.)

The Washington Examiner reports today, in addition to American Airlines’ original statement, Capitol Hill lawmakers’ rebuttal of claims from the United-backed coalition, which has falsely claimed regional airlines could risk losing access or delays at DCA if more flights are authorized:

  • “We’ve got language in there protecting those regional flights,” said Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) during a press conference on Tuesday. “My constituents in my hometown of Savannah, be assured that our flight, our nonstop direct flight, is going to stay in place. That’s not going to change.”

“Given that American Airlines is the sole carrier that services most regional flights in and out of DCA, particularly to cities such as Charlotte (NC), Jackson (MS), Charleston (WV), Little Rock (AR), Cleveland (OH) and Knoxville (TN), its commitment to protecting current regional air service is notable,” CAA spokesman Brian Walsh said today. “There is nothing in the perimeter rule modernization bill that would negatively impact regional service in any way, and in fact, both in-and beyond-perimeter airports could gain from new flights at DCA. And we know consumers would benefit from more affordable ticket costs and greater flight accessibility. American’s statement today that it has no plans to cut regional service leaves United Airlines standing alone in threatening flight cuts. It’s past time to stand with consumers and for competition, not individual companies promoting protectionist policies built on fictitious claims.”

United controls 70 percent of the gates at Dulles International Airport (IAD), which was recently named “the most expensive airport in the country,” with an average domestic ticket price of nearly $500.  In outlining his support for modernizing the federal perimeter rule, former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta, who served under both Presidents Obama and Trump, wrote in The Wall Street Journal this week, “Fundamentally, the only reason to oppose modernizing the perimeter rule is to protect some airlines from competition. That motivation certainly still exists in Washington today, to the detriment of fliers. If the status quo prevails, consumers will continue to pay the price through higher airfares and fewer travel options.”

Today, CAA welcomed the support of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Ranking Republican Ted Cruz (R-TX), who said he supports overdue efforts to modernize the perimeter rule.

  • “Congress doesn’t micromanage flights between Newark and LaGuardia, O’Hare and Midway, or Dallas and Love Field, and it shouldn’t do so between DCA and Dulles,” a spokesman for the Texas senator said in a statement provided to the Washington Examiner. “As lawmakers continue work on the FAA reauthorization bill, providing more affordable flight options into and out of Washington will be a priority for Sen. Cruz and many Republican and Democrat members of this committee — all to the benefit of consumers who want a more convenient experience, less travel time, and lower costs.”

Senator Cruz’s support comes in the wake of bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate yesterday by U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), which would authorize 28 additional flights per day at DCA and FAA data demonstrates the airport has the capacity to handle. “Our nation’s capital should be easily accessible for all Americans, and it’s a shame that the barriers to access the city are often too much for people in Wyoming and out west to overcome,” Lummis said in a statement

It’s a view echoed by many others on Capitol Hill as well, including U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX), who posted yesterday, “For over 60 years, federal perimeter rules have made traveling to our nation’s capital expensive for El Pasoans and our service members stationed at Fort Bliss. I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of the DCA Act that would make visiting Washington more accessible.”

CAA recently launched, a website that outlines the facts about modernizing the 1960s era perimeter rule and addresses the multiple misleading claims asserted by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and United Airlines.  The new website includes a recap of United Airlines’ similar playbook when it tried to block new competition in Houston.  At that time, United threatened job losses and flight cuts at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) (which, like Dulles is a United hub) if lawmakers approved new flights by Southwest Airlines out of Houston’s other airport, Hobby.  However, after losing that fight, United’s threats never came to pass and in fact, the airline ultimately added flights and jobs at IAH. 

About CAA

CAA consists of diverse members from around the country and various industries, including transportation, general business groups, the small business sector, entrepreneurs and job creators, organizations focused on economic development, and leaders in the civic and policy communities. It seeks to make air travel to and from Washington, D.C., more accessible and affordable by modernizing the 1960s era federal perimeter rule that has led to limited competition, fewer air travel choices and higher ticket prices for air travelers. 

Learn more about Capital Access Alliance HERE.